Lewisham Council – Community, Civic and Public Services

Some key things happened at the full Lewisham Council meeting held on Wednesday, 18th January 2017. The most significant one being a very moving performance of a selection of songs by the Cantonial Choir and Catford Synagogue led by Rev David Rome to mark Holocaust Momorial Day. Lewisham’s event is at the Rivoli Ballroom on 29th January.

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As the Lead Non Executive Councillor and  Chair of the council’s Scrutiny Committee it was important to put before the council some key areas of the public services that Lewisham Council must hold to account:

Transport: The Public Liaison Transport Committee reported on how councillors and the public including the Lewisham’s Amenity Societies – eg Forest Hill and Sydenham socieites – worked together to put together a full response to the consultation on the railway timetable changes. Key changes included a loss of services from New Cross Gate, Brockley, Honor Oak Park, Forest Hill and Sydenham to East Croydon Stations but an increase in services on the Catford Loop Line dubbed the ‘cinderella line’ following Thameslink works at London Bridge.

Councillor Alan Hall said: “Victorian Railway lines criss cross Lewisham borough from the old bridge at Southend Lane, Bell Green built for two horse and carts to pass each other to the viadicts that cut across New Cross at places such as Cold Blow Lane.

The Public Transport Liaison Committee fulfills a very important function hence this consultation response before the full Council tonight.

I should say that my friends at ASLEF having been doing a superb job highlighting the failure of Southern Railways and the lack of action and vision of this Tory Government.

The response highlights the following issues:

Our impression is that the changes to the Catford Loop Line do not go far enough…Furthermore changes proposed such as on the Sydenham line have a sharply detrimental effect on residents.

Greenwich line services in the longer term need to take account of population growth and development around Deptford. They may require additional capacity.

The Council supports the proposal to increase frequencies on the Catford Loop line – two trains per hour is not good enough for a world class city like London.

The Council formally objects to the reduction of services along the Sydenham line. The Council has concerns over overcrowding at Canada Water and a worse passenger journey. This proposal servers the link from Brockley, Forest Hill and Sydenham to East Croydon and thus the interchange for Gatwick Services.

The Council wish to ensure that any changes to Thameslink services capture the need to accommodate increased passenger flows to New Cross Gate subject to the deliver of the extension of the Bakerloo Line to Lewisham.”

The full text of the consultation response is here:

Sedgehill School:  Local comprehensive school Sedgehill has been run by an Interim Executive Board since January 2015. It is subject to an Academy Order by the Government but a Sponsor has not been found. Sedgehill School is not alone. The are a list of schools know as the ‘untouchables’ who remain without a Sponsor but with a legal Academy Order and they face an uncertain future due to tory government policy. The full question and answer can be found here.

Thames Water: There have been sink holes in Forest Hill and Lee. Burst pipes and victorian infrastructure are leaking. I have called Thames Water to account and they will be at a meeting on Monday 23rd January at the Civic Suite.

Councillor Alan Hall said: “We must keep up the pressure on Thames Water and ensure that there is a dialogue and investment pipeline to improve our victorian, leaking infrastructure.”

Full details are here:

Public Health: The Government has issued the Public Health Grant Settlement on 15th December. The London Borough of Lewisham is to receive a further cut in grant to £24.9 million.

This confirms the cut to the public health grant that was announced by the Government in February 2016 and will be a year on year reduction totalling 9.6% by 2020. This was in addition to the in-year cut imposed in 2015/16. Putting further pressure on the local NHS.

Council Finance: As the Council moves to set a Budget for 2017/18 the formal meeting agreed the Council Tax Base. However, I asked the Mayor about his assessment of the settlement from the Government. There is no new money. Lewisham Council has lost 2,000 staff since 2010 and I stressed that as Labour Council we must put frontline services first whilst paying the London Living Wage. In fact, Lewisham Council faces further cuts to its budget until 2020. For Local Government as a whole this figure is a £5.8 billion cut.

Hazelhurst Court see Phoenix Community Housing here is an Extra Care Project of 60 new build homes in an integrated extra care scheme. This scheme will give vulnerable residents the opportunity to move into good accommodation whilst freeing up their previous social housing amny with two or more bedrooms in South Lewisham. The Mayor of Lewisham agreed with me that this should be supported to open in July 2017. This makes financial, political and practical sense.

I fully supported the motions to oppose Blacklisting of Trade Union members – I am a member of Unite and Unison. I voted in favour of the motion highlighting the folly of  TTIP the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and CETA the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.

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